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Home Again, Naturally

Source: Daily Mirror

Writer: Ray Coleman

Date: 1981


Gilbert O'Sullivan has a big money problem.  He's got stacks of the stuff - and he's frightened it might ruin him.


Suddenly at 35, he's a multi-millionaire.  The thought makes singer-composer a worried man.


"I'm terrified by the money," he says.  "It could be a noose around my neck.  I'm no idle millionaire type - I enjoy my work.  I don't want being rich to make me lazy."


Gilbert's antidote to the temptations and worries of his newly acquired wealth, the result of a successful High Court action against his former manager is to fling himself into doing what he's best at...songwriting.


He has fled to a remote spot in his native Ireland with his Norwegian wife Aase, their year old daughter Helen-Marie - and lots of writing paper.


He has become a virtual recluse and a workaholic, toiling eight hours a day in a special room he calls the monastery...even though he's rich enough never to put finger to keyboard again.


"I've always believed in working hard," says the star who once got by on the 10 a week he earned as a postal clerk.


"There's a limit to what can be done with money, even if the digits sound like a telephone number."


Gilbert won a multi-million pound award in the High Court after suing ex-manager Gordon Mills for a fair share of 14.5 million earned by O'Sullivan songs in the Seventies.


To pay his legal costs the pop star had to sell his 250,000 house in Weybridge, Surrey - where he wrote his smash hit Clair in praise of Gordon Mill's daughter.


His daily routine at the family's new home, a six bedroom farmhouse in County Wexford, he describes, frankly as boring.


"Up at nine every morning, radio on, cup of tea and toast, help with the baby then downstairs to the music monastery," - the workroom with three organs, two pianos and a computer that produces instant percussion sounds.


"I work until one.  Then after a half lunch - usually cheese toasted in fried bread, an invention of my bed-sitter days - it's back to work until five."


He does not like visitors and he and his wife rarely venture out.  After dinner he helps Aase with domestic chores.  They are in bed soon after the nine o'clock news.


"It's a boring existence, I'm often tempted to drop everything and go to Paris for the weekend.  But if I fall into that trap it could be the beginning of the end.  There would be a dangerous temptation to carry on."


Instead he opt for the simple life, uncluttered by the usual trappings of wealth.  he owns twenty four acres of land, but has leased most of it to local farmers.  "It's great to see the land full of sheep and cows.


"But we've had to give up eating veal and lamb.  When you see the animals being born, you can't face eating them".


He shows no sign of changing his conservative lifestyle.  he does not smoke and only drinks wine with his dinner.


There are fourteen pubs in the village close by, but he has not been anywhere near them.  He's too busy working.


"It's really hard going for me, writing songs" says Gilbert.  "Having money makes no difference.  Even if the piano were made of gold the strife would still be there.


"For me it's the loneliness of the long distance songwriter - just four walls, a piano and me and the search for good ideas.


"Some people don't like going to their office every day.  Well, I get desperately lonely and fed up coming down into my work monastery day in day out.  But I have to persevere because I love writing songs.  It's my life."


Cut off from other people, how does he get inspiration and ideas for songs?


"Mainly from watching news and current affairs programmes on TV and reading newspapers.  If I get a couple of ideas in one day I've done well.  I'm always working for the song that everybody will like and recognise.  The most difficult number to write is the one that sounds simple when it's played in the supermarket."


He is unlikely to discover where his records are being played.  He rarely leaves his home, he doesn't drive a car and has yet to visit the nearby village.


"I'm a scruff at heart, that's one of the reasons" he says.  If I went to the shops to buy tea and eggs I'd have to come my hair and put on a nice clean shirt because people might recognise me - and to look at I'm no David Essex.  I'm completely paranoid.  Even if people weren't looking at me I'd think they were.  And if I didn't look good I'd feel terrible."


If I saw Michael Caine in a sweet shop looking scruffy I'd be disappointed.  If you're in the public eye you must look the part.  But I only dress up when I have to."


He regards his newly acquired fortune with a mixture of elation and disbelief.


"I just don't want to think about the money because I can't comprehend the size of it.  I've told Aase not to let the cash go to her head.  In the present recession it would be disgusting to flaunt money."


He is unrepentant about suing his former manager and believes that his opponents misjudged his determination to win.


"When you feel as wronged as I did you'll go through hell fire to see it through.  It took four years for the case to come to court and the hearing lasted three weeks.  I was in court every day at nine and absolutely drained at the end.  But I'd do it all over again.  It's Gordon Mills' loss.  I'm sad that the case hurt his wife and mother, who were good friends of mine, but it wasn't my fault that it happened."


One of his rare excursions from his new home was to Dublin where he recorded his latest album.  It features a song called You Don't Own Me which is a cryptic message to ex-manager Mills.


More important to him than the money is his acquisition of the record masters and ownership of the copyrights of his famous songs, including Clair, Alone Again Naturally and Nothing Rhymed.


Gilbert says "To a writer his songs are like a birthright.  I was fighting for a half share in them which I'd been promised.  I got complete possession and controlling their future is tremendously important to me.


"I'm a songsmith by trade and I'd like to leave people some songs they can enjoy and remember me by."


With that the shy pop millionaire excused himself and got back to the business of trying to write another song.  The sort his milkman would enjoy whistling.


Thanks JB